Governor Jan Brewer vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have legalized illuminated electronic billboards with changing messages along state highways.
The issue arose after the state court of appeals ruled last year that the law does not allow such signs along roads paid for with state or federal funds. That caused an uproar in the industry not simply because new signs would be forbidden but 70 existing signs would have to go dark. Most are in the Phoenix area but one is near Williams. In her veto letter, Brewer said there is probably a place for these signs. But she also noted the astronomy industry's $1.2 billion investment in the state, saying, quote, I simply refuse to place all of this in jeopardy. So the governor wants a compromise. Jeff Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory, said astronomers did offer a deal when the bill was heard in the Senate -- a 75-mile buffer zone around telescope sites and a limit on night time illumination.
"We would not have sent that to the Senate if we had not considered it acceptable," said Hall. "It was reviewed by directors of most major observatories in Arizona and we all thought that would work fine for us. It was a solution that leaves Phoenix in the clear."
But the billboard operators refused to budge. With the veto, billboard industry lobbyist Wendy Briggs said companies need to figure out what to do next. Hall said the astronomy community remains willing to talk further.
"To see governor Brewer asking for that in the letter is quite encouraging and is what we want to do which is to work in good faith to reach a solution that benefits both industries," said Hall.